Answering your questions about the COVID-19 vaccines

Our pharmacy students and faculty members help clear the air

As 2020 drew to a close, the first two effective vaccines for COVID-19 were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Within days, institutions around the country, like UCSF, began vaccinating health care workers, essential workers, and vulnerable individuals.

In the coming months, these vaccines are expected to become widely available and additional COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be approved by the FDA. Pharmacists, who are trained to be immunizers, will be critical for preparing these vaccines and safely inoculating the general population, and many of these vaccinations will occur in pharmacies.

The UCSF School of Pharmacy posed common questions about these new vaccines, collected from the community, to faculty members and pharmacy students. Have a question about the vaccines that we haven’t answered? Submit your questions by emailing [email protected].

This page will be added to and updated regularly.

Desi Kotis, PharmD, chief pharmacy executive at UCSF Health, describes the negative side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. (1 minute 28 seconds)

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Transcript and reference

Can the COVID-19 vaccine make you very sick or even kill you?

So the COVID-19 vaccines cannot kill you, they can't hurt you. The benefit of this vaccine is tremendous.

There are some local and systemic, initial allergic-type reactions that occur.

They don't occur very often, we have not seen them very often.

They are treated locally at the clinic or at the drive-through when a vaccine is administered.

Usually these happen within 10 minutes of receiving the vaccine.

The other side effects that are talked about quite a bit are those really annoying effects, mainly they happen after the second dose, usually to younger people, and those are fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue. And if those do occur they can be treated with your favorite remedy whether it's acetaminophen or Tylenol, Excedrin or ibuprofen, a non-steroidal like ibuprofen or Motrin.

So really the benefits of the vaccines, truly a beacon and a sign of hope, and they outweigh any of the risks.


Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Crystal Nguyentan explains the recommendations for immunizing children with the COVID-19 vaccines. (45 seconds)

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How old does a child need to be in order to get the vaccine?

The vaccine is definitely available for adults but it gets a little complicated for people under 16 and people under 18 years old.

So the Pfizer vaccine is approved for people aged 16 and up, and Moderna for people age 18 and up, and this is because of the clinical trials and the population they studied.

But the Pfizer vaccine is being studied right now in adolescents age 12 and up and for the Moderna vaccine in adolescents age 12 to 17.

So we should see some data coming up for younger populations in the next year.


How CDC Is Making COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Nathan Dang explains whether you need to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve already been sick. (42 seconds)

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Do you need to get the vaccine even if you've already been sick?

Yes, you should get the vaccine even if you've already had COVID.


Well, recovering from COVID can offer you some natural immunity but we don't know yet how long that immunity will last.

Since COVID is so serious and reinfection is possible we recommend getting the vaccine for extra protection.

Please note, however, that if you've recently been treated for COVID you may need to wait 90 days before getting the vaccine.

Talk to your physician or pharmacist first to find out when the best time is for you to get the vaccine.


Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, explains whether you should get the vaccine if you are trying or will try to get pregnant. (1 minute, 57 seconds)

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Is it okay to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you're trying or will try to get pregnant?

I know that there's a lot of information on this topic available on social media that can be really confusing, so let me tell you what we know today from the experts.

All vaccines are studied for side effects that are both immediate and can happen years in the future. The COVID-19 vaccine is not only being studied in tens of thousands of patients today but it'll continue to be studied for years to come.

Just like all vaccines and drugs, the way the COVID 19 vaccine works is it actually trains the body to develop antibodies to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 and to prevent the illness from COVID. And the science says that these antibodies that are formed, that there's no evidence that the antibodies formed by the COVID-19 vaccine can cause any problems with pregnancy.

And there's no evidence of any fertility problems as side effects from any vaccine, and that's not just the COVID vaccine, but that's any vaccine. And these vaccines have been studied for years.

So the answer to the question is, yes, if you want to become pregnant, now or in the future, you can get the COVID 19 vaccine when it's available to you.


Vaccination Considerations for People who are Pregnant or Breastfeeding (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Kharissa Reyes explains whether you’ll need to get the COVID-19 vaccine every year. (46 seconds)

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Will you have to get the COVID-19 vaccine every year?

It’s too soon to know whether we’ll need an annual COVID-19 vaccine. It hasn’t even been a year since the first person had their vaccine so we don’t know how long immunity will last.

Also, we don’t know how fast the virus mutates or if it’s in a way that will prevent our current vaccines from working.

Researchers are looking into both of these questions right now and with time weÆll know more. If we do need a new vaccine every year, luckily the MRNA vaccines are fairly easy to update and we can adjust them to cover the new strains of viruses pretty quickly.


COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Vs. Fiction: An Expert Weighs in on Common Fears (UCSF News)

Part of our series

Leading on COVID-19 vaccinations

The School of Pharmacy has been an integral part of UCSF’s efforts to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines. From inoculating patients to educating the public on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, the School is working to be part of the solution to the coronavirus pandemic.

Check back for our latest coverage of the vaccination roll out.